The definition of life is growing in importance. We want to know when human life begins for lots of ethical, legal, and religious reasons. We want to know that if we find something crawling around on Mars it can be classified as life. As artificial intelligence evolves, we want to know when to start granting androids rights. And if a human is in a coma, we want to know at what point that individual could be considered no longer alive.
So I was noodling with a functional definition of life that aims to solve our current and future ethical dilemmas. How about defining life as any discreet entity with the following qualities:
This definition keeps our future androids from getting full legal rights, since they can't feel pain. And it would let you pull the plug on anyone who doctor's say has no potential to ever feel pain or learn again. So far, so good.
One thorny issue is that life would begin at conception by this definition. It would be a separate argument as to whether the woman carrying the life has a right to terminate it while it is still in the early potential phase.
My definition keeps a virus from being considered life. And plants too, I think. That feels right. I don't think lettuce needs to be "alive" any more than my watch.
I haven't thought this idea through. I'm just throwing it out there for consideration.
So what happens if the universe is expanding? It seems to me our holograms would change positions. Perhaps this explains what we perceive as movement. The edge of the universe moves, and suddenly I think I'm driving my car someplace.
The other thing that might happen is that our images would grow in size, the same way a projector's image grows as you back it up from the screen. We wouldn't notice the growth because everything would grow at the same time, with denser objects growing just a bit faster, thus creating the illusion of gravity.
If any of that seems inconsistent with scientific observation, don't worry. The great thing about being a hologram is that our memories of the past are all false. So if you think our planet orbits the sun, maybe you only remember learning that and it never happened. All bets are off when you are a hologram.
If our memories are false, you'd expect to see some inconsistencies in the historical record, just because all those false memories wouldn't fit together seamlessly. The longer the history, the more likely there would be inconsistencies. For example, we might have a popular theory that the universe suddenly inflated from a dot of nothing, or that most of the universe is made of invisible dark matter, or particles can have spooky entanglement issues from a distance, or light can behave like both a particle and a wave. Check, check, check, and check. You're sure those things will be rationally explained by science someday, but I'll predict new inconsistencies will be formed in the process, to perpetuity.
If our reality is a hologram, you might also expect that the theory of evolution would have some head-scratching parts. Maybe something like this:
If you are tempted to argue that I'm misinterpreting something here, based on your vast knowledge, remember that your knowledge is all false memory. Or maybe just half vast.
1. If you take it somewhere for a second opinion, the second guy will screw you too, albeit in a new way.
2. If you try to service your car yourself, you will die in a fireball that will be visible from the International Space Station.
So you loosen your sphincter muscles, take a deep breath, and agree to let the suspicious stranger service your brains out. Your only solace comes from the knowledge that sooner or later an investigative reporter will bust your dealership.
I consider this to be one of the downsides of understanding economics. I know in advance, almost like ESP, that none of you have heard this from a car dealership's service department in the past two months:
Service Guy: "I fixed your ping by removing a twig that was caught under the fender. There's no charge of course, and your car is otherwise perfect. So I will just default on my mortgage and kill stray dogs to feed my family this week. Have a nice weekend!"
One thing they all have in common is that none have set the world on fire. I think there are two reasons for this limited success, and both are about to change.
Reason one is that the economics of solo driving have always been relatively reasonable in the U.S. That could change as the economy continues its downward spiral. People will be looking to cut costs anywhere they can, and they will give up flexibility to do it. That's new, or potentially new. And in developing countries the economics of single passenger autos is less favorable. People will have iPhones long before they have their own cars.
The second obstacle to ridesharing is a sense of control. Imagine finding a ride match on your computer then walking to the sidewalk and hoping it actually shows up on time. Or imagine walking to some central pickup location and hoping there are enough drivers for the number of riders. You would feel you had no control. That's a stopper. But I can imagine a certain type of iPhone-like application that could give you back the feeling of control. I will explain.
First, it would help a lot if you could easily negotiate a ride from the iPhone as opposed to needing a computer. That helps if you need to make a quick change in plans. That's the first part of giving you a sense of control.
Next, the application should use GPS to draw a map of your location, with blips for the cars available for ridesharing. You select the nearest blip and a bio comes up telling you something about the driver, including his primary profession, age, a photo, and a picture of the car. If you don't like something about that potential ride, move on to the next nearest blip. Again, you have a sense of control. Likewise, the driver could reject you as a passenger after seeing your bio.
After you select your driver, and he accepts, you can monitor his progress toward your location by the moving blip on your iPhone. As with the progress bar on your computer, the feedback will give you a sense of control. And with an iPhone you can stay entertained while you wait. That helps make the time go by, and again gives you a sense of control.
I also imagine that all drivers would have to pass some sort of "friend of a friend" test, in the Facebook sense. In other words, you can only be a registered rideshare driver if other registered drivers have recommended you. Drivers would be rated by passengers after each ride, again by iPhone, so every network of friends would carry a combined rating. That would keep the good drivers from recommending bad drivers because the bad rating would be included in their own network of friends average. That system needs more thought, but you can see where I'm going on that. And the same system could be applied to potential passengers. As the system grew, you could often find a ride with a friend of a friend. And that automatically gives you something to talk about too.
The big fear people might have is that strangers would commit crimes against them. But remember that the system would have a record of every ride matched, including the identities of the participants, and a GPS record of where they were and when. A rideshare car would become the very worst place for a criminal to commit a crime.
Apple could make it happen just by good design and of course the coolness factor. The profit potential is huge, for both the system operator and drivers, so that imparts some inevitability to this idea. The U.S. will have too many legal barriers to be the leader in this sort of thing, so I expect it to catch on in other countries first. Once proven elsewhere, the U.S. might take a look.
The thing that most interested me is the ability to borrow features from one species and embed them in another. I can't wait to get my tail and wings. Flying monkeys got a bad reputation from The Wizard of Oz, but I can't think of a cooler way to go. Obviously I wouldn't wear the bell hop costume, or even pants. But that's okay because I would be covered with fur, everywhere except for my genetically enhanced giraffe-style genitalia. I'd be giving up something in terms of aerodynamics, but you have to make tradeoffs.
I think most people would want to have wings if they had the option. But it would be a mistake to choose the form factor of a bird. You want to go with the monkey design for your fuselage so you get the gripping hands and feet. You don't want to have giraffe-style genitalia and nothing but two scratchy feet and a beak. That's just asking for trouble.
The most exciting part of this wonderful future is that when you can fly, the whole world is your toilet. You might want to avoid any homes that have anti-winged-monkey artillery, and there might be a lot of that in the future, but everywhere else is fair game.
Some people might manipulate their genes to become smarter. I think that's a mistake, especially after you become a winged monkey. The smarter you are, the more easily bored you will be. I want to be happy all the time so I'd trim 40% off my IQ and get some new hobbies such as collecting rocks that are roundish, or running for Congress.
Well, I can dream.
It's a good start, but a better format would allow the moderator to pick the topics, state them in the affirmative as in "The government should do X" and then let the best pro and con arguments get voted to the top. The current design is a bit too scattered.
Next, as I wrote several times in this blog, the universe is starting to look more like a hologram every day. Now there is physical evidence, which I find delightfully creepy:
If you read my book God's Debris, you might find an interesting analogy between what I called God dust and the holographic "pixels" of the universe that have been discovered.
Last, after blogging about the next financial bubble being in water, a commenter recommended an index fund of companies in the water supply business, ticker symbol PHO. So I loaded up on that stock yesterday morning after noticing it was way off its historical high, and the topic is out of the headlines because of bigger news. As luck would have it I caught the bottom of the overall market before it climbed back and made a 4.4% gain in a few hours
Yesterday a US Airways jet lost both engines in a freak collision with a bunch of geese. Amazingly, the pilot made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and no one was injured. The jet is an analogy to the economy. This is how the hologram tells us we hit bottom and survived. Mark yesterday on your calendar; it's the day the economy started to turn around.
Disclaimer: Don't take advice from cartoonists on investing, religion or politics. Even a blind squirrel can find three nuts in a week.
Water has it all, except for the existence of futures contracts, as far as I can tell. Once you see a market for water futures forming, bend over. That's when the manipulation will begin. Crooks prefer manipulating financial markets over building reservoirs.
The plausible explanation for the worldwide shortage is that the population is growing faster than the supply of clean water. Add global warming to the mix and you have plausible explanations for worldwide droughts. That's the cover story. It's true enough to mask the artificial shortages that will be caused by the speculators and hedge funds.
So how can you invest and make money in water now, before the bubble tops?